UP EXPERT OPINION: Another year of staring down the barrel for Africa

Posted on February 09, 2022

In his second editorial of the year, Professor Adekeye Adebajo writes about the ongoing and new challenges to African countries in 2022. 

With African sovereign foreign currency denominated debt having surpassed $1-trillion, and with only 10% of Africans having been fully vaccinated against Covid-19, conflicts will continue in Central Africa and across the drought-affected Sahel, while coups d’état seem set to proliferate across West Africa.

Russia will continue to use mercenaries to challenge France in its self-declared chasse gardée (private hunting ground). China will continue to invest heavily in raw materials and minerals, remaining the continent’s largest trading partner at $254bn a year. The global prices of African metals, minerals, hydrocarbons, and food are also expected to rise. 

In Southern Africa, dominant parties from the liberation era still mostly occupy state houses. Repression will continue in military-dominated Zimbabwe and absolutist monarchy Eswatini, even as parties of change struggle to transform societies in Malawi and Zambia.

SA, with 66% of Southern Africa’s economy, will be racked by factional squabbles within the governing ANC all the way to its elective conference in December. The MPLA will use any means, fair or foul, to retain power in Luanda during polls in August. Fractious Lesotho also goes to the polls a month later.

Despite the military assistance of Rwanda and Southern African Development Community soldiers, the four-year insurgency in Mozambique’s mineral-rich Cabo Delgado province will continue to rage. Underlining the challenges of climate change, more cyclones are expected to hit Southern Africa after January’s Storm Ana, which killed 77 people in Madagascar, Mozambique and Malawi.

Autocratic dynasties

In Central Africa, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Cameroon account for 62% of the subregional economy. But instead of being islands of stability, the DRC’s east will continue to be conflict-ridden, as it has been for two decades. Cameroon’s anglophone “Wild West” will also accelerate the country’s slide into civil war.

The neglected conflict in the Central African Republic will continue to result in thousands of fatalities across the rebel-infested countryside. Elsewhere, autocratic political dynasties will try desperately to cling on to power in Gabon, Congo-Brazzaville, Equatorial Guinea and Chad.

In coup-prone West Africa, military marabouts in Mali, Guinea and Burkina Faso have taken advantage of widespread insecurity and poor governance to seize power through the barrel of the gun. Niger, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast, Togo and Benin are all vulnerable to similar putsches by military “men on horseback”.

Nigeria, accounting for 62% of West Africa’s economy, remains a limping Leviathan unable to stem countrywide instability. More than 4.3-million people are internally displaced across West Africa, over half of them in Nigeria.

In East Africa, Ethiopia and Kenya account for 57% of the subregional economy and should be the pillars of regional security. Ethiopia will continue its destructive civil war between Addis Ababa and the Tigray region, which has drawn in Eritrea. South Sudan’s splintering warlords will continue to wage an eight-year war that has displaced 4-million people and killed nearly 400,000.

Suppress opposition

The military junta of Sudan’s Abdel Fattah al-Burhan will continue to battle civil society pro-democracy protesters. Somalia’s AU-backed regime of squabbling politicians will struggle to subdue Al-Shabaab jihadists, even as 7.7-million drought-afflicted Somalis require humanitarian assistance.

Governing parties in Rwanda, Uganda and Tanzania will continue to use state instruments to suppress opposition. Elections in Kenya in September will also need to be carefully managed to avoid ethnic-fuelled violence. 

Egypt accounts for nearly half of North Africa’s economy. The country’s new pharaoh, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, has jailed opponents and muzzled the media, while his army continues to battle militants in the Sinai peninsula. Street protests by civil society activists will also continue in Algeria and Tunisia.

Africa thus seems set to endure another year of living dangerously in 2022.

Adebajo is professor and senior research fellow at the University of Pretoria’s Centre for the Advancement of Scholarship.

This article first appeared in Business Day on 6 February 2022. 

- Author Professor Adekeye Adebajo

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